Off The Wire
Trump says ready to push out coronavirus aid, blames Democrats for holdup
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump on Friday once again said he was ready to act to pump stimulus money into a U.S. economy hard hit by the coronavirus crisis, a week after his negotiating team failed to reach a deal with congressional Democrats.
The Republican-controlled Senate and Democratic-controlled House of Representatives have gone into an informal recess after last week’s talks ended with the parties $2 trillion apart. However, the leaders of both parties said they could recall their members with 24 hours notice if a deal emerged.
In a series of posts on Twitter, Trump said he was prepared to take unilateral action, this time to provide Americans with direct payments as well as money for small businesses and state and local governments. “DEMOCRATS ARE HOLDING THIS UP!” the president wrote repeatedly in the series of tweets.
Aides to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer were not immediately available for comment.
Trump’s move came a day after he said he was blocking talks to prevent Democrats from providing more money for the Postal Service or state and local election officials struggling to prepare Nov. 3 elections during a pandemic.
It was not clear what authority he would have to dispense additional relief. The U.S. Constitution gives Congress, not the president, the power to determine taxes and spending, which limits Trump’s ability to pump meaningful amounts of stimulus money into the economy on his own.
Last Saturday, he signed a series of executive orders on issues including unemployment benefits that economists dismissed as too limited to have a significant effect on an economy hammered by the pandemic. They have yet to be carried out.
The $2 trillion chasm between the Democrats’ $3 trillion proposal and the Republicans’ $1 trillion offer includes wide gaps in funding for schools, aid to state and local governments, and unemployment pay.
An impasse over $600-a-week in enhanced unemployment benefits, which expired on July 31, kept financial markets on edge as the Commerce Department reported weaker-than-expected July retail sales growth due to the effects of the spiraling pandemic and the cessation of the enhanced unemployment payments.
The unemployment payments had helped the U.S. economy by buttressing consumer spending, according to Federal Reserve officials and economists. Trump tried to act alone last Saturday with a memorandum proposing an additional $300 per week in unemployment, though economists questioned the effectiveness of the limited measure.
Meanwhile, the number of U.S. coronavirus infections approached 5.3 million on Friday, with deaths topping 167,000.
U.S. share prices dropped earlier this week when Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Pelosi disclosed there were no coronavirus talks scheduled.
Democrats offered to reduce their proposal by $1 trillion during negotiations with White House officials last week. The White House rejected the offer.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll published early this week found that Americans blame both parties for the inaction.
Reporting by David Morgan, Lisa Lambert and Tim Ahmann; Editing by Scott Malone and Jonathan Oatis